Repeat after me

One of the abiding memories of my time at Rowden was just how slow I seemed to be at everything. And while I wasn’t appreciably slower (or faster) than any of the other students, to get something right took an inordinate amount of time.

It struck me that, if anyone was to make actual money at this game, you needed to be a whole bunch faster than we were when we were doing things for the first time.

Well I can tell you this, the speed comes. 

Just like the first time you rode a bike and wobbled dangerously towards various lethal objects, it didn’t take too long before you were batting along like a pro, probably pulling wheelies, and always with at least one grazed knee. So it is with cabinetmaking.

There are two huge drivers to getting faster. The first is confidence. When you know the tolerances you are after you can cut accurately to within a hair’s breadth of final dimension. Planing is kept to a minimum. You should still measure twice and cut once, but at least you’ll have stopped measuring the same thing 13 times! Machine set up is faster, jointing is faster, finishing is faster. Everything, in fact, seems to take less time without ever having to rush. You simply get on with it.

The second great time saver is if you have a product that you’ve made a few times before, one you reliably sell periodically, and can afford to make in a small batch.

With something you have made before there is no design time, no process list to write, no component list to write anew. There are  no jigs and no new templates. With something you’re making a few of, the time saved in making 16 legs, say, isn’t 4 x making 4 legs. It might just be double.

We reckon a small batched product takes a quarter of the time per unit than the first prototype took because of confidence, and process reduction. 

And there you have it. Rowden takes care of the training. Practice takes care of the business!

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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